A cataract occurs when the lens inside your eye becomes cloudy, interfering with your vision and getting progressively worse. They usually affect people in their seventies, but can occur at any age. The blurred vision that they cause can make driving and other daily activities unsafe, which is why, in some cases, the NHS offers cataract surgery to patients. The surgery involves removing the natural clouded lens and then replacing it with an artificial lens. It has recently been revealed, however, that patients waiting for treatment from the NHS are left to go “nearly blind” before undergoing the procedure. The extra pressure placed on the NHS in recent years has resulted in longer waiting lists and stricter requirements. This means that people awaiting cataract treatments are often unsafe to drive, but as this is an essential part of life for many people, it is likely that they still are driving – just without driving standard vision.
Mr Javad Moayedi is an ophthalmic surgeon at our Optimax Newton Abbott clinic, specialising in cataract surgery, and has performed over 30,000 lens surgeries throughout his career. He has been looking into the impacts of cataract development on driving and has found that up to 25% of patients waiting for cataract surgery on the NHS have inadequate vision for driving.
“There are many other issues at play when driving – not just the number plate distance check but problems with peripheral vision and glare, particularly as the cataract develops. Visual impairment is a far greater factor in road traffic accidents than many of us realise, I am sure.”
At Optimax, we offer patients the option of two types of lenses: monofocal or multifocal. The NHS offers the monofocal option, meaning that patients who undergo the procedure there must choose between either fixed short-sightedness or long-sightedness from their new lens. At Optimax, alongside a monofocal lens choice, we also have multifocal lenses which allow the eye to focus on both near and distant objects.
“The development of a cataract is normally a gradual process and most people are not aware of the full extent of the deterioration in their vision unless they have their eyes examined regularly by an optometrist. The implications for driving with defective vision are very serious. Most people do not realise that their insurance is likely to be invalid if they are found to be driving with defective vision and are involved in a road accident” – Mr Javad Moayedi
At Optimax, we perform the cataract procedure on each eye separately to allow for recovery and to safely assess patient reaction. The second eye is operated on a week after the first, speeding up the entire process when compared to the 6-12 week wait for NHS patients. It is crucial that people have driving standard vision and we strive to help our patients achieve this.
Regular eye examinations are key to detecting cataracts early on so we would encourage everyone to visit an optometrist to have their eyes checked and monitored over time. We only have one set of eyes and ensuring safe, clear vision is a top priority for us all.
Based on an original piece by Janice English